Saint Augustine Of Hippo’s Book The City Of God: How Man’s Fall Resulted in Death

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Augustine’s The City of God addresses, in Books thirteen and fourteen, the origins of sin and the purpose and nature of death, examining the fall of man and it’s relation to the mortal condition and death and vice as a punishment. Augustine’s work has continued to serve as a key religious test since it was written during the fall of the Roman Empire in fourth century A.D..

Book fourteen, in chapters ten through sixteen deal with the nature of original sin The original human beings, Adam and Eve, are portrayed by Augustine to have had a wonderful life, unhindered by the burdens of disease, mortality and sin (Augustine 567). The priest stresses the responsibility of Adam and Eve in their sin, citing their pride as the reason for their inability to admit their wrongdoing (Augustine 574). This pride and self-indulgence was punished by being “…handed over to himself”, meaning that the human flesh was then commanded to oppose the human soul, leading to many future human evils (Augustine 575). Book fourteen is an in-depth explanation of why death, suffering and sin were imposed on man which is was previously explored by Augustine in Book thirteen.

Book thirteen of The City of God quickly establishes death as a punishment for the disobedience towards God of Adam and Eve, noting that “The condition of human beings was such that if they continued in perfect obedience they would be granted the immortality of the angels” (Augustine 510). It is very important for Augustine to then explain what he means by death, which–as it is fundamentally an evil as it separates the body from the soul in all cases (Augustine 511, Augustine 515). Augustine is quick to make the distinction between the death of the body and the death of the soul (Augustine 510-511). The first, and most severe a form of death, is that of the soul which occurs only when God–the source of life for the soul–abandons it in return for being abandoned (Augustine 510-511). This form of death is sometimes referred to by Augustine as “the second death” when both the body and soul are devoid of life (Augustine 510-511, Augustine 523-524). The death of the soul is undoubtedly more punishing than the death of the body, this being–according to Augustine, the first form of death inflicted upon the first man, Adam (523-524). The idea of the destroyed or mutually abandoned soul is portrayed as a greater punishment than even the torments of Hell, an idea addressed by Augustine in Chapters five and six of book thirteen of his work.

Chapter five of the thirteenth book of The City of God deals with the law and death as agents of good or evil, framing the law as inherently good and death as inherently evil (Augustine 514-515). Augustine’s view on the law is much simpler than his view on virtuous death, claiming that the law is good because it allows death to be handed to those that deserve it–though it may tempt some, by forbidding a thing, to commit a crime (Augustine 514-515). The reasoning used by Augustine to justify the law is that “…sin was made to show its true character…”, sin is temptation and was punished, by God, with death (Augustine 514-515). While Augustine paints death as an evil, he also paints it as a tool to avoid sinning–as used by a number of saints (Augustine 514-515). In Chapter four Augustine notes that death for a saint “…has become the means by which men pass into life”, a point again made in chapter five when “…righteousness puts all things, evil as well as good, to good employment” (Augustine 514-515) The death of the virtuous saint avoids the death of the soul and only involves the death of the body, passing from the human life to the life of the immortal soul (Augustine 514-515, Augustine 510). Augustine’s positions reinforce the idea that the good shall be rewarded while the wicked shall be abandoned by the Creator.

When read together, books thirteen and fourteen paint a bigger picture of the role of death in Christianity. Augustine, in book fourteen, seems to throw the theological book of offenses at Adam and Eve, the first sinners (Augustine 566-577). Augustine also takes the time to suggest that Adam incurred the greatest punishment, the abandonment of his soul by both himself and God (Augustine 523-524). Despite the universal punishment of death, The City of God still offers some reward–or at least a lesser punishment–to the saints or to the faithful, those who have repented for the original sin and sin that occurred in their lifetime (Augustine 514-515). For the repentant, there is the death of only the body which allows them to “…pass into life” as an immortal soul, like the immortality promised to Adam and Eve (Augustine 514, Augustine 510).

It is for these reasons that the text endures. Augustine both explains the fallibility of man as well as the willingness of God to take Mankind under His roof once again, inspite of the prideful self-indulgence of the first human beings, actions that–even in the material world–lead to corruption and failure.


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